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Prasar Bharti CEO Says People Laughed When he Decided to Telecast Ramayan Again During Lockdown

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Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, credited with presiding over the most-watched TV show in history “the Ramayan re-run on Doordarshan which has racked up more than 250 million unique views” recalls his WhatsApp groups ringing with laughter when news of nostalgia programming hit the headlines soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the first lockdown in late March. Also Read – Dipika Chikhlia Shares Unseen Picture From Ramayan, Says ‘She Was Reborn When She Played Sita’

“They’re all, like, laughing. Who’s going to watch it?! I had to tell them that, you know, India is very different. It’s not just the English speaking elite, it’s much bigger, much more diverse. So there was that worry,” Vempati told IANS during a video interview on the backstory of Prasar Bharati’s programming during the COVID-19 lockdown. Also Read – Ramayan: BBC Wanted Arun Govil Dressed And Paraded as Shri Ram in Their Studios, Reveals Prem Sagar

After the Ramayan re-run began, Doordarshan’s reach soared way past the top seven Hindi general entertainment channels. Time spent on Doordarshan moved from 15 minutes per week to more than 70 minutes. The re-run on April 16, 2020 alone logged 77 million viewers. Also Read – Ramayan’s Ram Aka Arun Govil’s on-Screen Daughter Natasha Singh on His Popularity: ‘I Was Unaware That He is so Famous’

“It was crazy,” Vempati said, detailing the nuts and bolts of sourcing the Ramayan from the Ramanand Sagar family in Mumbai.

“The tapes were in the deep archive of the (Ramanand) Sagar family, and in Mumbai it was like operating in curfew. Someone had to physically retrieve these things. The formats had changed. People had to work through the night to figure out how to get it into a compatible format, and then push it from Bombay. Because the file sizes are so large, you can’t do it over the internet, it would have taken forever. So we had a satellite-based mechanism by which the content was beamed from Bombay and downloaded into servers here, so that the next day’s episodes could be aired.”

Now, nearly two months on, as India’s lockdown eases, Doordarshan viewership numbers are already reflecting the shift away from binge-watching spikes.

Vempati is now thinking about “reinventing the brand” for India’s youth while staying away from what he describes as the pitfalls of audience segmentation and OTT content that is inconsistent with “family values and culture”.

“Somewhere, the calculus of audience segmentation has lost its way,” Vempati said, speaking to how families watch entirely different content across multiple devices during times when they could instead be sharing a common viewing experience.

“The combination of lockdown and Ramayan,” he said, “showed us that families can still come together around television if the content is wholesome and appeals to every segment.

“Nostalgia was always a trend for Doordarshan. While we leverage nostalgia, we can’t rely on that alone”.

For Vempati’s team, the upside to Doordarshan’s lockdown programming is brand awareness among “an entire generation born into the world of cable and satellite and internet”.

Speaking with candour about the inner workings of public broadcasting, Vempati said Doordarshan happily finds itself sitting on a pile of fresh content because “bureaucratic process takes that long to bring content on it”.

“So while the rest of the industry is struggling, we have a large library that has not been seen by audiences across India which we’ll roll out in the next few weeks.”

Vempati points “history buffs” to Doordarshan’s YouTube channel. “We have the oldest TV interviews of Nehru. In fact, his last TV interview which he gave to an American broadcaster, just weeks before he passed away we have retrieved those, put them on YouTube.”

Vempati said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to the metaphorical “Lakshman Rekha” when he ordered the first India lockdown became the tipping point for Prasar Bharati to go all in on mythological content.

“So one of the questions that bothered me when I joined to serve as a board member and later on as CEO was that all of these iconic serials have immense nostalgia and brand connect but we don’t have access to any of this content,” Vempati said.

Prasar Bharati took the decision to re-acquire this content late October 2019 but it took a lockdown announcement to fast-track the closure.

Ramayan’s four episodes a day format was based on the assumption of a 15 day lockdown. Ramayan closed out its re-run in mid-April.

Vempati is pushing hard for organisational collaboration with academia and startups to create what he calls an “enabling” environment to transform India’s public broadcaster for the digital age.

Prasar Bharati is working with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, around research collaboration on direct-to-mobile broadcasting.

“We have asked IIT-Kanpur to create that enabling environment, create the test-bed to bring in startups. And then let’s see what we can do in this whole ecosystem. So that effort is on.”





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Singer Jassa Dhillon To Make His Bollywood Debut Soon

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The singer started his musical career in 2019 with the song ‘Pyar Bolda’

Singer Jassa Dhillon is all set to make his Bollywood debut soon. New details about the project will be revealed soon.

The singer and lyricist started his musical career in 2019 with the song ‘Pyar Bolda (Ft. Gur Sindhu)’ which has featured in various music charts.  It is also quite popular on YouTube with over 33 million views. Gur Sidhu has given the music for the well-recieved track.

Since then, the singer has created a number of songs. These include songs like ‘Low Rider’, ‘Surma’, ‘Mutiyare Ni’, and ‘Jhanjar’. Jassa has experimented with a variety of genres through his music including Punjabi, pop, romantic, and hip-hop. His latest song Jatt Hunne Aa released on April 25, 2020, and already has over 2 million views on YouTube. 

Born in Assandh to Ranbir Singh Dhillon and Harjinder Kaur, Jassa Dhillon completed his education at JPS Academy. We look forward to seeing the singer-lyrist on the big screen soon.

 





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Cinematographer Baidyanath Basak passes away

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Written by Komal RJ Panchal
, Sana Farzeen
| Mumbai |

Published: June 5, 2020 9:16:23 pm


Baidyanath Basak passed away on Thursday. (Photo: Doordarshan/Screengrab)

Cinematographer Baidyanath Basak passed away on Thursday in Kolkata.

His son Sanjay Basak confirmed the news to indianexpress.com. He said, “My father was living with me in Kolkata. He was not keeping well for the last few months. A couple of days back his health deteriorated and we tried taking him to a hospital. But because of coronavirus crisis, no hospital was admitting my father. He finally passed away yesterday between 3 and 3:30 pm.”

Baidyanath Basak made his Bollywood debut as an assistant cameraman with Raj Kapoor directorial Boot Polish (1954). After not being able to find enough work in Mumbai, he shifted back to Kolkata.

Once back in Kolkata, Uttam Kumar played a very important role in his career. Basak shot the maximum number of films with Uttam. He also worked with actors like Suchitra Sen, Moon Moon Sen, Ashok Kumar, Tunuja, Tapas Paul and Soumitra Chatterjee.

Some of his notable Bengali films include Manjari Opera (1964), Kokhono Megh (1968), Sabar Uparey (1955), Trijama (1956), Pathey Holo Deri (1957), Nayika Sangbad (1967), Ekti Raat (1956), Putrabadhu (1998), Deya Neya (1963) and Kakababu Here Gelen? (1995).

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Wajid Khan’s Family Thanks Doctors And Hospital Staff For Taking Care of Him in an Emotional Note

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Leaving millions of his fans, friends, and family reeling in shock, music composer Wajid Khan died on June 1 in Mumbai’s Surana Sethia Hospital, Mumbai where he was being treated for kidney-related ailment. Wajid Khan’s brother Sajid Khan and his family recently took to social media to pen an emotional post for the late musician. Also Read – Sajid Khan’s Heart-Touching Final Tribute to Brother Wajid Khan: ‘People Will See You in Me’

Thanking the team of doctors who stood by Wajid in his difficult journey, Sajid and family wrote in a statement, “Wajid passed away at the age of 47 due to a cardiac arrest on June 1 at the 00:30 am in Surana Sethi”s hospital here. Wajid had a successful kidney transplant last year and was undergoing treatment for throat infection in the hospital. Dr Prince Surana was like a family and cared for Wajid like a brother with his team of doctors. The entire hospital staff who had been treating Wajid and taking care of him beyond the call of duty and had left no stone unturned for his treatment”. Also Read – Sajid Khan Shares Unseen Video of Wajid Khan From Hospital Playing Piano on Phone – Watch

Read the full statement here:

On Tuesday, a family source had revealed that Sajid and Wajid’s mother, Razina Khan, also tested positive for coronavirus.

Sajid-Wajid made their Bollywood debut with Salman Khan‘s 1998 movie Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya and went on to work on actor’s various films including Garv, Tere Naam, Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, Partner, Veer, Wanted, Dabangg franchise and Ek Tha Tiger. Wajid also did playback for Salman in chartbusters like Mera He Jalwa, Fevicol Se and for Akshay in Chinta Ta Chita Chita from the film Rowdy Rathore, among others.

Salman paid tribute to Wajid in a tweet where he mentioned how he will remember him for the kind of person he was. He added that Wajid was a talented man and his work will always be remembered. Salman wrote, “Wajid Vil always love, respect, remember n miss u as a person n ur talent, Love u n may your beautiful soul rest in peace …”





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